Galantino says govt 'completely absent'

Bishops denounces political attacks on CEI

(ANSA) - Rome, August 12 - Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, secretary-general of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), said Wednesday the government of Premier Matteo Renzi has been "completely absent of immigration".
    Galantino told Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana that it was "not enough to rescue migrants at sea".
    "We do what the Gospel requires of us," he added in reference to the stand the Catholic Church has taken on the issue of migration.
    Last week, Pope Francis said that refusal to accept migrants was an act of war and violence.
    Soon after, Galantino warned that: "Unfortunately (anti-immigrant feeling) is being fueled by a handful of cheap peddlers willing to say extraordinarily inane things just to get a vote".
    The pope's comments, as well as Galantino's, have triggered angry responses from some politicians, particularly the anti-immigration Northern League led by Matteo Salvini. The League has said Italy is already taking in too many of the thousands of migrants fleeing war and violence in Africa and the Middle East, often in dangerous voyages over the Mediterranean Sea to land in Italy.
    In an interview with Famiglia Cristiana, Galantino said that the government must do more to accept immigrants and raise awareness of their plight among the public.
    "Instead, we have always written laws that basically reject immigrants and do not provide for positive integration," said Galantino. "Practices to apply for asylum are long, an ordeal...we park immigrants here and there in Italy," he added, refering to migrant centres where people are often left idle as they wait for their paperwork to be processed.
    Instead, there could be a streamlined process for residency permits that would allow more migrants to find meaningful work, said Galantino.
    That would give migrants a more positive image among Italians struggling to overcome their own economic crisis of recent years, he said.
    "People would see them no longer loitering around and would not say they are eating at the expense of Italians (who are) already in crisis".
    Galantino said his organization has been attacked by some politicians because over its stance on welcoming migrants, with accusations thrown that the bishops have some financial interest in immigration.
    That reduces the issue to "a frightening banality," he said.
    Worse, comments by League politicians such as Salvini and Governor Luca Zaia of Veneto, amount to a sort of "tavern talk, boasting" that could be turned into violence against newcomers, warned Galantino.
    On Monday, Salvini complained that "someone is talking too much in the name of the (Catholic) Church".
    "My argument is not with the Church but with someone who is talking too much in its name," Salvini said in reaction to earlier comments by Galantino.
    "Someone is doing politics in the name of the Church," he said.